Have Orthodox Jews today abandoned theology as a mainstream pursuit, and imposed instead a simplified, simplistic conformity of thinking virtually unknown to their spiritual ancestors? This is the hypothesis which forms the background to Marc Shapiro’s ground-breaking study of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of faith.Continued...
For several centuries, the Principles have been identified by traditional scholars and Orthodox Jews with the fundamental beliefs of Judaism. Indeed, for most Orthodox Jews, they have become widely accepted as the last word in Jewish theology, and to deny them is heretical.
Shapiro, a Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and himself an Orthodox Jew, sets out to show that this attitude is completely modern, and that historically – both before and after Maimonides – his Principles were widely discussed, disputed and even dismissed by mainstream Orthodox authorities. Maimonides himself did not accept several of his own Principles, and certainly did not think that to deny them was heretical.
The startling implication is that most Orthodox Jews today, even Orthodox leaders, are ignorant of their own theological heritage, and that by today’s standards, many of Orthodoxy’s most important historical figures would have been condemned as heretics....
Sunday, January 09, 2005
My review of Marc Shapiro's The Limits of Orthodox Theology appears in the new edition of the Jewish Quarterly:
Posted by Miriam at 1:38 PM